Thoughts on safety at sea:


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Dick
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jmounter - 10/1/2019
Hi Dick, I agree with all your thoughts, including the alarm. I dd not recall but have a feeling they did have a smoke alarm, but sounding below. Clearly if these are any use they need to have sound in the cockpit, too. With an engine running and hatches closed, anything down below would be very hard to hear. We have an auto fire extinguisher and now we are sailing back in northern waters both my Admiral and I keep Epirbs in our clothing. I always keep a hand held VHF on deck, too. The advice about getting the liferaft ready, immediately a real problem is discovered, is very important. But, of course, they did that on this occasion and it seems it may have been cooking for up to 18 minutes. In a Valise it might have been toast. As a stowage arrangement, that system is hopeless and my friend is writing to the upmarket boat manufacturer to warn them. Imagine this: Half way across an ocean, everyone on deck, clipped on and wearing lifejackets. Hatches closed. They start the engine to charge and, as with my friend, cannot get below. The life raft doesn’t inflate having been cooked. Fire is starting to cook the gas bottle stowage, as it did for my friends. Choices: None. Swim, try to survive in a dinghy ( if you can get it out of a fiery locker and inflate it in time ) or suffer a fiery death.With or without alarms, even with lifejackets properly worn, that ‘over the engine’ liferaft stowage system is deadly, in my view, and I urge fellow members who have it to use it to stow extra ropes or maybe a spare anchor and look for an alternative place to keep their ‘last chance’ .

Hi Julian,
All good thoughts.
Alarms are quite loud, but you are correct to point out that they need to be able to be heard closed up and with the engine going. Some alarms “daisy chain”. By that I mean if there are a few of them in the “house”, if one goes off, they all go off (look at NEST detectors, they are quite high-end and may need internet, but are reported to be superb). The alternative might be an alarm with a separate buzzer, which probably takes one into the realm of a bespoke piece of kit. My smoke detectors have all been household type which have served me well: quite inexpensive and the new ones are also CO detectors if memory serves.
Let us know if you find a good solution to this.
My best, Dick Stevenson, s/v Alchemy

Dick
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Shifting One’s Mind-Set
At this time when many are looking at ocean passages to warmer climates for the winter, one’s Safety at Sea is usually founded on a mind-set that is developed after long years of sailing, and much experience in a wide range of conditions. This mind-set is hard earned and serves us well. It is, however, possible, even for those who have a lot of sea miles and especially for first timers, to induce mind-sets that can markedly improve safety.
For example: When on passage, I think there is a world of difference, when doing a 360 sweep of the ocean, if you tell yourself ahead of time that there is a potentially dangerous ship out there and you just need to find it. The work is then to convince yourself that you were wrong: that there is no ship out there. This may be a particular effective suggestion for new and inexperienced crew.
The same goes for pre-passage inspections (or all inspections for that matter): look for the problem you “know” is there. When I go aloft to check rigging, I “tell myself” that a problem exists and I just need to find it. And then convince myself there is no problem.
I know this “mind-set” shift changes my behavior from what might be termed casual-but-attentive to one of increased diligence: others have confirmed that this “mind-set” shift made them more focused.
My best, Dick Stevenson, s/v Alchemy

Daria Blackwell
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Dick - 10/10/2019
Shifting One’s Mind-Set
At this time when many are looking at ocean passages to warmer climates for the winter, one’s Safety at Sea is usually founded on a mind-set that is developed after long years of sailing, and much experience in a wide range of conditions. This mind-set is hard earned and serves us well. It is, however, possible, even for those who have a lot of sea miles and especially for first timers, to induce mind-sets that can markedly improve safety.
For example: When on passage, I think there is a world of difference, when doing a 360 sweep of the ocean, if you tell yourself ahead of time that there is a potentially dangerous ship out there and you just need to find it. The work is then to convince yourself that you were wrong: that there is no ship out there. This may be a particular effective suggestion for new and inexperienced crew.
The same goes for pre-passage inspections (or all inspections for that matter): look for the problem you “know” is there. When I go aloft to check rigging, I “tell myself” that a problem exists and I just need to find it. And then convince myself there is no problem.
I know this “mind-set” shift changes my behavior from what might be termed casual-but-attentive to one of increased diligence: others have confirmed that this “mind-set” shift made them more focused.
My best, Dick Stevenson, s/v Alchemy

Dick,
This is a really important concept. Being convinced that there is a problem makes one concentrate on really investigating thoroughly.

Along with that is the question I ask myself while on watch -- "What if?"  I learned that from astronauts talking about their training protocols. What if a shroud breaks?  What if the forestay fails?  What if we hit a whale? What if the genoa sheet snaps?  What if we have an overlap on the winch? What if there's an injury aboard? And so on. By walking through 'what ifs' on a routine basis, the response to a risk scenario may be faster and more appropriate if thought through well in advance. 

Cheers,
Daria 

Vice Commodore, OCC 
Dick
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Daria Blackwell - 10/10/2019
Dick - 10/10/2019
Shifting One’s Mind-Set
At this time when many are looking at ocean passages to warmer climates for the winter, one’s Safety at Sea is usually founded on a mind-set that is developed after long years of sailing, and much experience in a wide range of conditions. This mind-set is hard earned and serves us well. It is, however, possible, even for those who have a lot of sea miles and especially for first timers, to induce mind-sets that can markedly improve safety.
For example: When on passage, I think there is a world of difference, when doing a 360 sweep of the ocean, if you tell yourself ahead of time that there is a potentially dangerous ship out there and you just need to find it. The work is then to convince yourself that you were wrong: that there is no ship out there. This may be a particular effective suggestion for new and inexperienced crew.
The same goes for pre-passage inspections (or all inspections for that matter): look for the problem you “know” is there. When I go aloft to check rigging, I “tell myself” that a problem exists and I just need to find it. And then convince myself there is no problem.
I know this “mind-set” shift changes my behavior from what might be termed casual-but-attentive to one of increased diligence: others have confirmed that this “mind-set” shift made them more focused.
My best, Dick Stevenson, s/v Alchemy

Dick,
This is a really important concept. Being convinced that there is a problem makes one concentrate on really investigating thoroughly.

Along with that is the question I ask myself while on watch -- "What if?"  I learned that from astronauts talking about their training protocols. What if a shroud breaks?  What if the forestay fails?  What if we hit a whale? What if the genoa sheet snaps?  What if we have an overlap on the winch? What if there's an injury aboard? And so on. By walking through 'what ifs' on a routine basis, the response to a risk scenario may be faster and more appropriate if thought through well in advance. 

Cheers,
Daria 


Dick
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Daria Blackwell - 10/10/2019
Dick - 10/10/2019
Shifting One’s Mind-Set
At this time when many are looking at ocean passages to warmer climates for the winter, one’s Safety at Sea is usually founded on a mind-set that is developed after long years of sailing, and much experience in a wide range of conditions. This mind-set is hard earned and serves us well. It is, however, possible, even for those who have a lot of sea miles and especially for first timers, to induce mind-sets that can markedly improve safety.
For example: When on passage, I think there is a world of difference, when doing a 360 sweep of the ocean, if you tell yourself ahead of time that there is a potentially dangerous ship out there and you just need to find it. The work is then to convince yourself that you were wrong: that there is no ship out there. This may be a particular effective suggestion for new and inexperienced crew.
The same goes for pre-passage inspections (or all inspections for that matter): look for the problem you “know” is there. When I go aloft to check rigging, I “tell myself” that a problem exists and I just need to find it. And then convince myself there is no problem.
I know this “mind-set” shift changes my behavior from what might be termed casual-but-attentive to one of increased diligence: others have confirmed that this “mind-set” shift made them more focused.
My best, Dick Stevenson, s/v Alchemy

Dick,
This is a really important concept. Being convinced that there is a problem makes one concentrate on really investigating thoroughly.

Along with that is the question I ask myself while on watch -- "What if?"  I learned that from astronauts talking about their training protocols. What if a shroud breaks?  What if the forestay fails?  What if we hit a whale? What if the genoa sheet snaps?  What if we have an overlap on the winch? What if there's an injury aboard? And so on. By walking through 'what ifs' on a routine basis, the response to a risk scenario may be faster and more appropriate if thought through well in advance. 

Cheers,
Daria 

Hi Daria,
Yes, agreed: “playing” the “what if?” game, as I call it, is an active ploy on Alchemy to anticipate where things might go pear shaped and is another example of how one can shift one’s mind-set. As you correctly point out, this shift allows you to “jump- start” response time when an anticipated event does unfold. I believe most sailors do this as a matter of course, often unconsciously as just SOP (standard operating procedure), but I do believe an active engagement in the process pays dividends in preparedness and in safety at sea and in an effective response to challenges. Mostly this is done while day-dreaming on watch, but it is even more effective when it is done in discussion with crew. 
Thanks for your thoughts, My best, Dick Stevenson, s/v Alchemy 

Daria Blackwell
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Daria Blackwell - 6/24/2019
Dick, you are so right. When we were first getting acquainted with Aleria, our Bowman 57, we went through every piece of gear aboard and studied how to deploy it when necessary. Naturally, an emergency tiller would be useful to get at quickly. But when looking at ours and trying to fit it, we realized we would have to be steering from under the berth in our aft cabin, periodically sticking our heads out the hatch to check on things happening on deck. Not an ideal situation. 

That's when we decided that the Monitor windvane steering system, with its emergency rudder configuration, would be a good backup system for us. And so we fitted the Monitor which we love. Fortunately, we have not needed to deploy it despite losing steering - twice - mid-Atlantic. Because of our sail configuration (cutter ketch), we can balance Aleria exceedingly well. While I stayed on deck and steered the boat by adjusting sails, Alex worked on the steering. The first time, a gearbox had seized; many hours of greasing and manual persuasion finally managed to loosen it. We have rod steering and several gearboxes. We had called into our Atlantic crossing net via SSB and several yachts diverted to our position to assist if needed, but we got lucky. Fortunately, it held until Grenada where we replaced the gear.

The second time, the quadrant 'jumped' off the post. I had to align the wheel precisely up on deck so that Alex could refit it below. Naturally, I was at the helm both times. :ermm: 


Here's a new post on loss of steering in the Down Under Rally - Go West. http://blog.mailasail.com/zoonie/posts/2019/10/10/850-2019-aus-bounding-forth-to-bundy

Vice Commodore, OCC 
Silvio
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Back to 2009 when I crossed from Galapagos to Marquesas, a 3200 miles route that took us 19 days to complete, I had a lot of time on hand to think about improving easiness and safety on board, so I made a few changes on managing the sails and on the ship abandoning procedures that included:
1. Reefing: when you have to reef a sail, is already because conditions are deteriorating so, the worst thing you can do, is going to the mast to reef the main sail. To resolve that, I installed one counter halyard (pull down) for each reef ( have 3), so I could pull down the sail from the cockpit, avoiding going to the mast. That significantly improved the effort of reefing the main sail. Recently, on winds over 50 knots, I found myself having to go to the mast to take the rest of the main sail down from reef 3 to zero, so I installed one small counter halyard to pull the last piece of main sail completely down, from inside the cockpit. Later, I had a chance to test the system on a real situation, and, provided that you manage that small cable well, avoided the trip to the mast on real bad wind or sea conditions.
2. Abandoning ship: Working on the "what ifs" of abandoning ships, came to mind that, the most important thing to take with you is water, so, I reserved a 3, 5L pet bottles of water, from which I took some wayer out to promote positive buoyancy, tie them together with a small rope, and tie the small rope on a longer rope, to take it out, throw it on the water, holding the long rope, and tying it up to the raft or other floating equipment to be used on the abandoning ship procedure.
3. Abandoning pack: using one of the waterproofed abandonig sacks, I put inside it:
Spot, Epirb, TelSat, Batteries, Solar powered chargers, Portable, waterproof VHF, on abandoning ship, take this sack out with you.

Dick
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Silvio - 11/3/2019
Back to 2009 when I crossed from Galapagos to Marquesas, a 3200 miles route that took us 19 days to complete, I had a lot of time on hand to think about improving easiness and safety on board, so I made a few changes on managing the sails and on the ship abandoning procedures that included:
1. Reefing: when you have to reef a sail, is already because conditions are deteriorating so, the worst thing you can do, is going to the mast to reef the main sail. To resolve that, I installed one counter halyard (pull down) for each reef ( have 3), so I could pull down the sail from the cockpit, avoiding going to the mast. That significantly improved the effort of reefing the main sail. Recently, on winds over 50 knots, I found myself having to go to the mast to take the rest of the main sail down from reef 3 to zero, so I installed one small counter halyard to pull the last piece of main sail completely down, from inside the cockpit. Later, I had a chance to test the system on a real situation, and, provided that you manage that small cable well, avoided the trip to the mast on real bad wind or sea conditions.
2. Abandoning ship: Working on the "what ifs" of abandoning ships, came to mind that, the most important thing to take with you is water, so, I reserved a 3, 5L pet bottles of water, from which I took some wayer out to promote positive buoyancy, tie them together with a small rope, and tie the small rope on a longer rope, to take it out, throw it on the water, holding the long rope, and tying it up to the raft or other floating equipment to be used on the abandoning ship procedure.
3. Abandoning pack: using one of the waterproofed abandonig sacks, I put inside it:
Spot, Epirb, TelSat, Batteries, Solar powered chargers, Portable, waterproof VHF, on abandoning ship, take this sack out with you.

Hi Silvio,
I appreciate your thoughts and suggestions. And yes, long hours on watch is conducive to much good reflection.
I will comment in turn here in this area of the Forum and may find better places to copy and paste your comments and my responses where those interested in, say, abandon ship procedures, can benefit from your thoughts.
Where to reef from:
I have participated in a number of discussions with respect to the debate of going to the mast for reefing vs staying in the cockpit. Experienced sailors fall into both categories so there is no consensus: generally, my take is that going to the mast prevails, but that may be a matter of boat design.
Basically, I do not consider this to be a “better than/worse than”/ seamanship issue where one is safer than the other. Some boats lend them selves to one system over the other and some boat’s initial design makes reefing from cockpit a bear to retrofit. The “on-watch” crew should always be ready to go on deck in any case (kitted up to conditions and harnessed) and I espouse a “deck walk” every watch to look for trouble (parts on the deck, chafe, fouled pennants and the like). In challenging conditions, this can be done at change of watch while the crew going off-watch is still kitted up and available.
I can certainly understand why one would not wish to go forward to reef in deteriorating conditions, but something is not right if the “worse thing you can do is go to the mast to reef”. If really nervous, reefing can always be accomplished from a hove-to position: about as comfortable as the boat can get. And, although not one’s idea of fun, it is never good to put off going forward: crew should always be willing, not necessarily excited, but willing to go forward and feel it is safe and reasonable to do so.
On Alchemy, our first two reefs are done from the cockpit. One of the pluses of this is that it can be done single handed from a safe location and there is no need to bother the off-watch person. Our third reef I need to go to the mast and a crew is needed to lower the sail from the halyard lead back to the cockpit. Even if reefing could all be done single-handed at the mast, I might feel, if going on deck to reef, some wish to wake the off watch person and have them know that I was working the deck.
Water etc. when abandoning ship:
Similar concerns and appreciate your solution. On Alchemy, my offshore raft was equipped with water packets and a Katadyne hand-held watermaker. The latter was expensive, bought brought some piece of mind. My Abandon Ship Bag had more water in re-usable containers. I also carried a 20l/5g jerry can (handy where good water is scarce) which, when off-shore would be filled to 3/4rs filled. The jerry can and ASB would be tied together and all floated.
Many of the items you mention are in our ASB at all times and ready to go. We also have a list of “last minute” items that started with the sat-phone and went down from there in order of importance. Having a waterproof bag for these items easily at hand when offshore is a wise pre-caution.
My best, Dick Stevenson, s/v Alchemy



Dick
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Dick - 11/3/2019
Silvio - 11/3/2019
Back to 2009 when I crossed from Galapagos to Marquesas, a 3200 miles route that took us 19 days to complete, I had a lot of time on hand to think about improving easiness and safety on board, so I made a few changes on managing the sails and on the ship abandoning procedures that included:
1. Reefing: when you have to reef a sail, is already because conditions are deteriorating so, the worst thing you can do, is going to the mast to reef the main sail. To resolve that, I installed one counter halyard (pull down) for each reef ( have 3), so I could pull down the sail from the cockpit, avoiding going to the mast. That significantly improved the effort of reefing the main sail. Recently, on winds over 50 knots, I found myself having to go to the mast to take the rest of the main sail down from reef 3 to zero, so I installed one small counter halyard to pull the last piece of main sail completely down, from inside the cockpit. Later, I had a chance to test the system on a real situation, and, provided that you manage that small cable well, avoided the trip to the mast on real bad wind or sea conditions.
2. Abandoning ship: Working on the "what ifs" of abandoning ships, came to mind that, the most important thing to take with you is water, so, I reserved a 3, 5L pet bottles of water, from which I took some wayer out to promote positive buoyancy, tie them together with a small rope, and tie the small rope on a longer rope, to take it out, throw it on the water, holding the long rope, and tying it up to the raft or other floating equipment to be used on the abandoning ship procedure.
3. Abandoning pack: using one of the waterproofed abandonig sacks, I put inside it:
Spot, Epirb, TelSat, Batteries, Solar powered chargers, Portable, waterproof VHF, on abandoning ship, take this sack out with you.

Hi Silvio,
I appreciate your thoughts and suggestions. And yes, long hours on watch is conducive to much good reflection.
I will comment in turn here in this area of the Forum and may find better places to copy and paste your comments and my responses where those interested in, say, abandon ship procedures, can benefit from your thoughts.
Where to reef from:
I have participated in a number of discussions with respect to the debate of going to the mast for reefing vs staying in the cockpit. Experienced sailors fall into both categories so there is no consensus: generally, my take is that going to the mast prevails, but that may be a matter of boat design.
Basically, I do not consider this to be a “better than/worse than”/ seamanship issue where one is safer than the other. Some boats lend them selves to one system over the other and some boat’s initial design makes reefing from cockpit a bear to retrofit. The “on-watch” crew should always be ready to go on deck in any case (kitted up to conditions and harnessed) and I espouse a “deck walk” every watch to look for trouble (parts on the deck, chafe, fouled pennants and the like). In challenging conditions, this can be done at change of watch while the crew going off-watch is still kitted up and available.
I can certainly understand why one would not wish to go forward to reef in deteriorating conditions, but something is not right if the “worse thing you can do is go to the mast to reef”. If really nervous, reefing can always be accomplished from a hove-to position: about as comfortable as the boat can get. And, although not one’s idea of fun, it is never good to put off going forward: crew should always be willing, not necessarily excited, but willing to go forward and feel it is safe and reasonable to do so.
On Alchemy, our first two reefs are done from the cockpit. One of the pluses of this is that it can be done single handed from a safe location and there is no need to bother the off-watch person. Our third reef I need to go to the mast and a crew is needed to lower the sail from the halyard lead back to the cockpit. Even if reefing could all be done single-handed at the mast, I might feel, if going on deck to reef, some wish to wake the off watch person and have them know that I was working the deck.
Water etc. when abandoning ship:
Similar concerns and appreciate your solution. On Alchemy, my offshore raft was equipped with water packets and a Katadyne hand-held watermaker. The latter was expensive, bought brought some piece of mind. My Abandon Ship Bag had more water in re-usable containers. I also carried a 20l/5g jerry can (handy where good water is scarce) which, when off-shore would be filled to 3/4rs filled. The jerry can and ASB would be tied together and all floated.
Many of the items you mention are in our ASB at all times and ready to go. We also have a list of “last minute” items that started with the sat-phone and went down from there in order of importance. Having a waterproof bag for these items easily at hand when offshore is a wise pre-caution.
My best, Dick Stevenson, s/v Alchemy



Not So Fast
It is not an exaggeration that “going fast” is endowed with admiration world-wide and is universally aspired to in most aspects of life. It is likely one of the first adjectives used when a skipper is asked about his/her boat. But cruisers, especially passage makers, might benefit from considering that going fast, as an aspiration, is over-rated and perhaps dangerous.
Take boat speed: on Alchemy, when on passage, I try not to exceed 75-80% of her speed potential. It is in that top 20% or so where there is little wiggle-room for the unexpected or forgiveness for errors. It is also the area where damage to the boat and injury to the crew is most likely. Similarly, in handling the boat, there is very rarely a call for speed. Working the boat and responding to problems benefit from a slow approach. Any really significant challenge likely benefits from a cup of tea before approaching.
On Alchemy, we try to move at 2/3rds speed at all times: there is just no hurry. Moving slow is a constant reminder of the possible devastating result that might result from a serious injury at sea. Moving fast generates a constant temptation to cut corners: to leave the harness behind, tether unattached etc. Most of us are husband/wife or short-crewed in some way and an injury, even minor, can cause a whole cascade of misfortune.
Going slow may not ensure a no-problem passage, but it certainly makes the completion of the passage in a satisfying way more likely.
Safe sailing, Dick Stevenson, s/v Alchemy

Dick
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Do No Harm
It is in the nature of cruising widely that skippers occasionally have to repair a system about which they may have little knowledge. It has been my experience and observation that there are some skills which make it quite likely that one will succeed in the repair.
My first “rule” is taken right out of medical training: “Do No Harm”. The primary danger where experience and knowledge are limited is that, in the poking around searching for a solution, that matters are made worse. Next worry is that you do not document how items came apart.
Please! Do not rely on memory: your smart-phone camera is an impressive tool in this regard. The best insurance to doing no harm is to proceed slowly and thoughtfully: usually there is no rush. In addition to photos, take real-time notes: partly as the notes will be helpful, but also because the taking of notes is a marvelous stimulus to creative problem solving. It is far too easy to get stuck in a limited line of thinking.
The next and last tool to be mentioned is persistence. If one persists in poking around and resists doing harm, the problem is very likely to reveal itself. Give yourself the mind-set to persist: tell yourself that you are learning about the system at hand, rather than repairing it. Make it fun and feed your curiosity and you will very likely execute the repair. At worst, you will have a better knowledge of the problem and what the next step is.
Please find this Thought in the Forum where comments/thoughts/questions can be posted.
Safe sailing, Dick Stevenson, s/v Alchemy

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